City of Philadelphia dismissed from arrest-related lawsuit alleging federal and state law violation claims

By Nicholas Malfitano | May 17, 2016

Philadelphia Police Department  

PHILADELPHIA – The City of Philadelphia has been dismissed from a civil rights complaint alleging various constitutional and state law violations against the City, the Philadelphia Police Department and several unidentified department officers.

Judge Jan E. DuBois approved a motion to dismiss from the City on May 10, holding plaintiff Angel Seagraves had failed to state claims against the City for alleged violation of the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments under 42 U.S.C. Section 1983 for “failure to train violation, for failure to properly screen and hire police officers, violation for failure to train police officers, violation for failure to supervise and discipline police officers and a claim for unspecified injunctive relief.”

Accompanied by a male passenger and her children, Seagraves was arrested by Philadelphia Police Officer Michael J. Tritz and an unknown officer on Sept. 22, 2013, subsequent to a traffic stop in West Philadelphia. According to Seagraves, Tritz told her the reason for the stop was “because her handicap placard was obstructing her view because it was hanging from the rearview mirror.”

DuBois said, “At the start of the stop, the officers removed the male passenger from the vehicle, handcuffed him, and detained him in the back of a police car. Plaintiff claims that the officers conducted an ‘illegal search of the passenger side'” of her car. Plaintiff then got out of her car and “informed the defendants that she was planning to call her attorney.”

Seagraves said as she exited the car, one or more of the officers began cursing at her and used racial epithets towards her and children. At this time, Seagraves says she was thrown to the ground, beaten and arrested, suffering a left ankle fracture and a contusion on her head in the process.

Seagraves was charged with aggravated assault, possession of an instrument of crime, simple assault, and resisting arrest. After a preliminary hearing on Oct. 7, 2013, the charges of aggravated and simple assault were dismissed for lack of evidence. After a bench trial on Dec. 2, 2013, Seagraves was found not guilty of the remaining charges.

Seagraves filed a complaint against the City, the Philadelphia Police Department, Tritz and three unidentified John Doe officers, for the aforementioned federal and state law claims.

DuBois indicated Seagraves’ claims for Monell violations were insufficiently pled, and her claims of the City’s failure to train or properly screen its officers were “not supported by any factual allegations in the complaint.”

“In this case, plaintiff has not identified a deficiency in a specific policy that could be the basis of a Monell claim, other than the conclusory assertion that the City fails to “provide adequate training to police officers on the proper protocol and procedure on detention and arrests of citizens,” DuBois said. “Plaintiff’s complaint also does not identify, even generically, a municipal decision-maker, and does not link that decision-maker to the alleged policy.”

DuBois further stated Seagraves’ claim for non-specific “injunctive relief” would also be dismissed.

“An injunction is a form of relief, not a cause of action, and was improperly designated as a separate count. Accordingly, because all of plaintiff’s other claims against the City are dismissed and there is no remaining basis for the granting of an injunction against the City, plaintiff’s count for ‘injunctive relief’ is dismissed as well,” DuBois said.

DuBois added the City must provide the names of the unidentified officers involved in Seagraves’ arrest.

“Because the individual police officer defendants have not yet been served pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 4 and plaintiff avers that she does not know the identities of these officers, the Court directs the City to provide to plaintiff the names of the officers involved in plaintiff’s arrest within seven days,” DuBois said.

“For the foregoing reasons, the Court dismisses plaintiff’s claims against the City without prejudice to plaintiff’s right to file and serve an amended complaint within 20 days if warranted by the facts and applicable law,” DuBois said. “In addition, within seven days the City shall provide to plaintiff the names of the police officers involved in the events of Sept. 22, 2013, that culminated in plaintiff’s arrest.”

The plaintiffs are represented by Vernon Zachary Chestnut in Bala Cynwyd.

The defendants are represented by Michael R. Miller of the City of Philadelphia’s Law Department, in Philadelphia.

U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania case 2:16-cv-01219

From the Pennsylvania Record: Reach Courts Reporter Nicholas Malfitano at

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